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The Web has changed a lot - as have the tools used to create Web sites. Bare Bones Software's BBEdit text editor has long been a favorite of Web developers, thanks to its impressive array of text-editing and code-building tools, and version 6.0 adds several productivity-enhancing features for generating static and dynamic Web sites. While BBEdit is an impressive tool that deserves its devoted following, the latest update mixes solid new features with some serious drawbacks.
Beneath the Surface
BBEdit 6.0's interface appears to be only slightly modified from previous versions; the most visible difference is in the code. HTML tag attributes and the values for those attributes appear in colors different from those of the tags themselves, and you can modify those colors by setting a preference. Version 6 supports not only HTML but also the new WML standard for portable devices and XHTML 1.0.
With this update, BBEdit users have even fewer excuses for sloppy markup: the Document Type tag offers a greater range of preset values, and the Head Elements tools provide improved menus for setting your document's Meta properties for keywords and character sets. Unfortunately, there's still no way to update Document Type Declarations as Web standards get updated. Nor is there a way to check syntax in Cascading Style Sheets, and the Tag Maker doesn't handle styles.
Other useful new features include an improved multifile find-and-replace feature that filters files based on multiple criteria, and support for Mac OS 9's Keychain when opening files via FTP. Users who deal with multibyte text can finally use BBEdit, thanks to added support for Unicode text files and multibyte characters.
This version is radically different from its predecessors when it comes to scripting. BBEdit's strong AppleScript support makes it a great all-purpose text tool, and that support is even better in version 6.0-not only can you script BBEdit, but you can "record" scripts simply by taking actions in the program. In addition, you can attach an AppleScript to any of BBEdit 6.0's menu items, right down to the Quit command. That's a trick that lets you modify or even replace entirely any BBEdit command you want.
It's all very impressive, but there's a big trade-off: many scripts written for previous versions of the application aren't compatible with version 6.0. If you rely on only a handful of simple scripts to extend BBEdit, that will probably only be a minor annoyance. However, if you've set up a complicated production system based on many complicated BBEdit scripts, you may need to make a major investment to get them up and running in version 6.0.
Macworld's Buying Advice:
Make no mistake: BBEdit is the best text editor available for the Mac, and no Mac-based coder should be without it. This update's new features probably make it worth the $39 upgrade fee, but it's still not as comprehensive as it should have been. And if you rely on AppleScript to work with BBEdit, you'll need to decide whether the new features are worth the effort required to make older scripts compatible with BBEdit 6.0.Color-Coded BBEdit 6.0's text coloring and glossary can boost your productivity.